Digitization Project FAQ: Part 1

This FAQ is designed to help you answer questions posed in the Digital Project Proposal Short Form. It is also useful as reference to understand some of the more technical aspects of digitization.

1. What do you have that you want to digitize?

It’s important to know what the collection includes – text pages, photos, items in color, handwritten items, old audio/video recordings, ephemera, etc.. If we know what we have in advance, we can plan for the best way to handle them. If something unknown is discovered during digitization, we have to stop, go over the new material, discuss how to handle it and how this will affect the project schedule. If a vendor is digitizing the material, surprises increase the costs of the project and run the risk of not meeting deadlines.

Here are things to consider:

How large is the collection? Figure out how many items you have in the collection. The more accurate the count, the better it is for planning purposes. The project team can start with a guestimate and refine from there, but an accurate count will become necessary when the project reaches the point of preparing items to be sent for digitization.

What formats are in the collection? Does the collection have multiple formats -- text, maps, photographs, correspondence, audio, video, etc.? Please be as specific as possible.

How much of the collection can be digitized? Are any of the items too fragile or too difficult to digitize? Are any under copyright? Are there duplicates that can be excluded from digitization? If you need assistance to assess the condition of the collection, Conservation can help.

What is the value of the collection to the Library? Does digitization support the Library’s mission for research and education? Is there administrative value, value as an artifact, value through its association to other Library/UM content, value as evidence, or even strict monetary value which a digital surrogate would help?

Can bound items be disbound? If your collection includes books that are readily available at other institutions, perhaps some could be disbound? Doing so makes the books easier and cheaper to scan. Disbound books are usually recycled and removed from the collection, unless there are explicit reasons to keep the loose pages afterwards.

Is the collection static or growing? Is the physical collection set in size, or will new material be added over time? If the collection is expected to grow, indicate how often material is added, how much with each update, and whether or not the new material will be added to the digital collection (if it should be added, be sure to secure the right(s) to digitize and access the new material).

Duplicate items. Are you aware of any duplicated material in the collection? DLPS does not digitize duplicates unless there is overwhelming need to present the same content more than once. We recommend going through the collection and noting where duplicates exist. If one copy is better than another, choose the copy you prefer to use. Digitization projects can also be a good time to review what’s in the collection and weed out material that is no longer needed. Look at other institutions to see if their holdings would allow us to exclude materials already digitized elsewhere and spend more time on unique items.

Inhouse vs vended digitization. Sending materials to vendor often gets results in a quicker turnaround, but some materials may not be able to leave campus/town/state. Some materials can only be handled by outside vendors.

Are any items already digital/digitized? If any of the items are already digital or have been digitized from analog, we’d like to review the files. We want to be sure they meet minimal UM specifications, what format they offer, whether the digital items are proprietary or open source, or if conversion to another digital format is required.

2. What do you want to do with these items?

Consider how your users will use your collection. What will draw them to use it online? Which of these apply to your collection, and which do you consider to be the most important for your users?

  • Page through it like a book
  • Search for text
  • Go through it like an online photo album
  • View it like an online exhibit
  • Use it for coursework
  • Download content for research purposes
  • Listen/watch the content online?
  • Extends use beyond original intention
  • Provides greater access to different user groups (e.g., disabled)

Your material will determine, to a large extent, on which platform the digital collection will be hosted. 

If you have… It will likely be hosted on…
Books and other bound material HathiTrust
Individual photos, maps, papyri, and other image collections DLXS Image Class
Encoded , searchable text DLXS Text Class
Audio converted for preservation storage HathiTrust (coming)
Video converted for preservation storage HathiTrust (coming)
UM faculty and student-authored work (text, image, AV) Deep Blue
Notes, syllabi, course presentations Course Reserves

Unless, of course, there’s an existing collection you could add to, rather than create a new one by itself. The benefit of adding to a larger collection of related material is that patrons searching the larger collection may stumble across your items more easily, instead of them looking for a collection of only your materials.

Check the MLibrary Digital Collections list for your specialty and see if your materials could be added to one there.

Something more may be called for – a well-designed web page that presents the collection and leads to the repository; a site that takes input from users and presents it to the collection curator. Different presentation is possible, but it will take extra effort.

3. What is the condition of the originals?

Review your collection to determine the fragility of the material. Some material may need to be stabilized before it can be digitized; some material may need treatment afterwards to address wear-and-tear that occurred during digitization. If you’re uncertain what the state of your materials are in, ask Conservation to review the collection with you.

Next... we'll walk you through the metadata creation, funding aspects of the project, etc.

Page maintained by Kat Hagedorn
Last modified: 01/22/2013